Triumphant Over The Great Wall


What the mind can conceive, it can achieve.

-Napolean Hill

Scheduling to run the Paris Marathon a month prior to The Great Wall Marathon turned out to be a spectacular component of my training regimin. Running on The Great Wall Marathon was certainly a physical endurance challenge with 5,164 steps sprinkled within the 26.2 miles!

The stars aligned in such a way that a childhood friend and her family are ex-pats living in Shanghai at the time of this event. In addition to the excitement of running the full 26.2 on THE. GREAT. WALL. I’ve had the opportunity to experience all of the local sites and cuisine with an amazing tour guide.


A View From My Room (Shanghai): Apartment Complex Primarily for Westerner’s and Ex-Pats


After a long flight & finally landing around 1am, I learned that my luggage took a different flight with 2 additional stops. Ang was gracious enough to share her closet! Excitement levels high…what jet lag?

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Downtown Shanghai


ummm….THIS is the pearl market? Jewelry vendors of all types EVERYWHERE

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Massages are considered a social event in China so no room is made for the privacy of one. This 90-min foot massage was <$30 (yes indeed).

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The final step of the 90 minute foot/leg treatment included fire cupping…

We experienced the high speed train from Shanghai to Beijing for the Great Wall Marathon. What my friend didn’t share — until we were passengers ON the train — was that the travel speed cap had recently been reduced to 315 km/hr due to a de-railing that led to deaths.


Our room at the Beijing Intl Hotel only had one gas mask can. Apparently if there was an attack, only one of us was going to make it??


We departed our hotel in Beijing at 3:30am for the Great Wall. Our first glimpse of a spectacular sunrise over the mountains – which apparently was unusual due to thick smog.

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I enjoyed my Authentic Chinese food as it used a variety of spices and far less sugar than Americanized Chinese food. I was also pretty impressed that I used chopsticks for all of my meals…except for morning cereal:-)


Entering the Great Wall to get warmed up and prepare for the race start.


A bit chilly before the race start…


…Crowd-Led Warm-Ups…




Cameras ready for shots like this….


...and this.


Yes, the full marathon included 5,164 steps! I counted. Every. Single. One.


Much of the path was narrow and very rocky – To the right? A bar, rope or (at times) nothing available to steady yourself. To the left? straight drop off.


…and in some spots, ‘party streamer’ to alert us to possible danger (lol). No OSHA in China! and the steps were staggered in depth from 3 in to 3 ft. Quite the obstacle course.


Many backlogs like this on the front half – not so much on the back half (latter few miles) as I witnessed many runners taking a break after every 1-2 steps. Others were using their hands to help climb too. Yes, it hurt that badly by that point:-)


When we ran through villages, the locals were so excited to see us. In addition to climbing nearly 5,200 steps, I high-fived almost as many hands!


I was handed flowers by 2 little girls along my journey. I carried them the entire way.



When we weren’t running on the wall, there was some time on asphalt, but most of it was on trails like this one (or rockier).


WE DID IT! I completed the full marathon and Ang completed the half marathon.

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DaDong Restaurant (Shanghai): Post-Marathon Celebration for the Best of Foodies

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DaDong Restaurant (Shanghai): Post-Marathon Celebration for the Best of Foodies

A few helpful tips if you are planning on traveling to China:

  • You will need a visa in addition to a valid passport.
  • In my nearly two weeks of travel, I only met one Chinese who spoke English. She shared additional insight into the difficulty that Chinese experience in understanding each other due to dialect differences. Seek a reputable tour guide company that speaks English. My luggage was lost and no one in the airport spoke English. I was blessed to have an interpreter to intervene.
  • The best place to exchange money is at the banks or to use my credit card (where accepted). I can tell you that the price of things doubled when my Mandarin-speaking friend wasn’t with me.
  • If you are a runner (or other form of athlete), be prepared for the significant amount of smog. It hurt my lungs to breathe during a few training runs during my stay in Shanghai.
  • Get used to a squat pot. Most public squat pots are dirt holes in the ground, but there are porcelain ones restaurants or other areas well visited by Westerners. The sewage system is so poor that toilet paper is not to be flushed, rather placed in the trash can.


  • ŸAnother important custom is to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home. As an emerging second-world country, there are people who urinate and defecate on public walkways.

Safe travels!!


**May 2012: Re-published from a retired blog site